Star Wars

Toynk SDCC Exclusives: Marvel, Doctor Who, Star Wars, Fallout, and More!

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 04/07/2019 - 4:50am in

Toynk is coming to SDCC, and they are bringing exclusives that any fan of pretty much anything will want to pick up. Pins, coffee mugs, cookie jars, there really is something for every collector. As a pin freak, there are lots of sets and individual pins that I am very excited to get my hands on. MCU, Doctor Who, Star Wars, Fallout, My Hero Academia, and more are all represented, and some of the designs are really top notch and unique. Check them all out below!

Toynk SDCC Exclusives List

 Marvel, Doctor Who, Star Wars, Fallout, and More!

Name: Star Wars Retro Business 16oz Pint Glass Set of 2

Price: $15.00

Description: Debut. Officially licensed 2019 San Diego Comic Con Debut  Star Wars 16oz pint glass set of 2.

 Marvel, Doctor Who, Star Wars, Fallout, and More!

Name: Star Wars Medal Of Yavin Prop Replica

Price: $60.00

Description: Debut. Officially licensed 2019 San Diego Comic Con Debut Star Wars Medal Of Yavin Gold Plated Necklace.  Necklace comes in a collectors box with a certificate of authenticity. 

 Marvel, Doctor Who, Star Wars, Fallout, and More!

Name: Star Wars Han Solo in Carbonite and Blaster 2 Pin Set

Price: $15.00

Description: Exclusive. Limited to 1200. Officially licensed 2019 San Diego Comic Con Exclusive. Star Wars 2 pin set featuring Han Solo in Carbonite and Blaster Gun.

 Marvel, Doctor Who, Star Wars, Fallout, and More!

Name: Nightmare Before Christmas Jack Skellington Cookie Jar

Price: $30.00

Description: Debut. Officially licensed 2019 San Diego Comic Con Debut Nightmare Before Christmas Jack Skellington Cookie Jar.  Ceramic cookie jar measures approximately 9″ H x 7″W. 

 Marvel, Doctor Who, Star Wars, Fallout, and More!
 Marvel, Doctor Who, Star Wars, Fallout, and More!

Name: My Hero Academia – SDCC 50th Anniversary Izuku Midoriya Enamel Pin

Price: $10.00

Description: Exclusive. Limited to 1000. Officially licensed 2019 San Diego Comic Con Exclusive My Hero Academia SDCC 50th Anniversary Izuku Midoriya Enamel Pin.  Pin measures approximately 2″ tall.

 Marvel, Doctor Who, Star Wars, Fallout, and More!
 Marvel, Doctor Who, Star Wars, Fallout, and More!

Name: Mr. Rogers Heat Change Sweater Mug

Price: $15.00

Description: Debut. Officially licensed 2019 San Diego Comic Con Debut Mr. Rogers Mug.  This 16oz ceramic mug features Mr. Rogers. When cold Mr. Rogers sweater is blue, when hot his sweater changes to red!  Hand wash, do not microwave.

 Marvel, Doctor Who, Star Wars, Fallout, and More!

Name: Marvel X-Men Deluxe Enamel Pin

Price: $20.00

Description: Debut. Officially licensed 2019 San Diego Comic Con Debut Marvel X-Men enamel pin.  Featuring the Magnetos helmet surrounded by X-men character logos and measures approximately 2.4″.

 Marvel, Doctor Who, Star Wars, Fallout, and More!

Name: Marvel Spiderman Spider Verse Spider-Punk Bracelet and Pin Replica Boxed Set

Price: $65.00

Description: Exclusive. Limited to 1000. Officially licensed 2019 San Diego Comic Con Exclusive  Marvel Spider-Punk Bracelet Set. Set includes 2 faux leather bracelets with replica webshooters each measuring approximately 2″ wide by 7.5″ to 8″ long, adjustable with button snaps. Also   6 replica enamel pins worn by Spider-Man. Set comes in a collectors box with a certificate of authenticity.

 Marvel, Doctor Who, Star Wars, Fallout, and More!
 Marvel, Doctor Who, Star Wars, Fallout, and More!

Name: Marvel Deadpool Chibi In Chicken Suit Enamel Pin

Price: $10.00

Description: Exclusive. Limited to 1500. Officially licensed 2019 San Diego Comic Con Exclusive Marvel Deadpool enamel pin.  Pin features Deadpool chibi wearing a chicken suit and measures approximately 1.7″.  

 Marvel, Doctor Who, Star Wars, Fallout, and More!
 Marvel, Doctor Who, Star Wars, Fallout, and More!

Name: Marvel Comics Amazing Fantasy #15 Spider-Man’s First Comic Book Appearance Enamel Pin

Price: $15.00

Description: Exclusive. Limited to 1000. Officially licensed 2019 San Diego Comic Con Exclusive Marvel Spider-Man enamel pin.  Pin features Spider-Man’s first comic book appearance and measures approximately 2.5″.

 Marvel, Doctor Who, Star Wars, Fallout, and More!
 Marvel, Doctor Who, Star Wars, Fallout, and More!

Name: Marvel Comics 80 Years Enamel Pin

Price: $10.00

Description: Exclusive. Limited to 1000. Officially licensed 2019 San Diego Comic Con Exclusive Marvel 80 years enamel pin.  Pin features classic Marvel heros and measures approximately 1.65″.

 Marvel, Doctor Who, Star Wars, Fallout, and More!
 Marvel, Doctor Who, Star Wars, Fallout, and More!

Name: Marvel Avengers Deluxe Spinning Enamel Pin

Price: $20.00

Description: Exclusive. Limited to 1000. Officially licensed 2019 San Diego Comic Con Exclusive Marvel Avengers enamel spinning pin. Featuring the Avengers Logo that spins around a circle of Avengers logos and measures approximately 2″.  Pin comes in a collectors box.

 Marvel, Doctor Who, Star Wars, Fallout, and More!

Name: Marvel Captain Marvel Goose Electroplated Cookie Jar

Price: $25.00

Description: Debut. Officially licensed 2019 San Diego Comic Con Debut  Marvel – Captain Marvel Goose Cookie Jar. Approximately 9″ H x 6″ W.

 Marvel, Doctor Who, Star Wars, Fallout, and More!
 Marvel, Doctor Who, Star Wars, Fallout, and More!

Name: Harry Potter Deathly Hallows Symbol Silver Electroplated Storage Jar

Price: $30.00

Description: Debut. Officially licensed 2019 San Diego Comic Con Debut Harry Potter Storage Jar.  Deathly Hallows jar measures approximately 6.5″ H x 7.5″ W.

 Marvel, Doctor Who, Star Wars, Fallout, and More!

Name: Fallout Vault Dwellers 4-Pack  Collectible Enamel Pin Set

Price: $20.00

Description: Exclusive. Officially licensed 2019 San Diego Comic Con Exclusive Fallout Vault Dweller  4-pack enamel pin set. This collectable set includes four 4 different Vault Dwellers and each pin measures approximately 1.5-inches.

 Marvel, Doctor Who, Star Wars, Fallout, and More!
 Marvel, Doctor Who, Star Wars, Fallout, and More!

Name: Fallout Vault Boy Uncle Sam Enamel Pin.

Price: $10.00

Description: Exclusive. Limited to 1000. Officially licensed 2019 San Diego Comic Con Exclusive Fallout Enamel Pin. Pin features Vault Boy Uncle Sam and measures approximately 1.75″.

 Marvel, Doctor Who, Star Wars, Fallout, and More!
 Marvel, Doctor Who, Star Wars, Fallout, and More!

Name: Dungeons & Dragons Enamel Pin Set of 4

Price: $20.00

Description: Exclusive. Limited to 1000. Officially licensed 2019 San Diego Comic Con Exclusive Dungeons & Dragons 4 Enamel Pin Set.  Set includes D&D die, Ampersand Logo, Dungeon Master Character, and Dungeon Master Logo Pins. Each pin measures approximately 1.5″.

 Marvel, Doctor Who, Star Wars, Fallout, and More!

Name: Doctor Who Tardis 13th Noodle Bowl With 1 Pair Chopsticks

Price: $15.00

Description: Debut. Officially licensed 2019 San Diego Comic Con Debut Doctor Who Tardis 13th Doctor Ceramic Noodle Bowl with Chopsticks.

 Marvel, Doctor Who, Star Wars, Fallout, and More!

Name: Doctor Who Pting Enamel Pin

Price: $10.00

Description: Exclusive. Limited to 1000. Officially licensed 2019 San Diego Comic Con Exclusive  Doctor Who 3″ Pting enamel pin.

 Marvel, Doctor Who, Star Wars, Fallout, and More!

Name: Doctor Who Plush Tardis And 13th Doctor Enamel Pin Set

Price: $20.00

Description: Debut. Officially licensed 2019 San Diego Comic Con Debut Doctor Who 2 Pack Set.  Set includes 4.5″ plush tardis and 1.5″ 13th Doctor enamel pin.

The post Toynk SDCC Exclusives: Marvel, Doctor Who, Star Wars, Fallout, and More! appeared first on Bleeding Cool News And Rumors.

From the People Bringing Us Driverless Cars – A Computer God

One of the books I’ve been reading recently is Peter Biskind’s The Sky Is Falling (London: Penguin 2018). Subtitled, ‘How Vampires, Zombies, Androids, and Superheroes Made America Great for Extremism’, Biskind argues that the popular SF/Fantasy/Horror films and TV series of recent decades carry extremist political and social messages. He defines this as anything that goes beyond the post-War bilateral consensus, which had faith in the government, the state, capitalism and other institutions to work for the benefit of society, work for the public good, and give Americans a better tomorrow. By contrast, popular fantasy film and television regard state institutions and capitalism itself as ineffective or corrupt, celebrate private vengeance against state justice, and reject humanity for the alien other. He recognises that there is a left/right divergence of opinion in these tales. The extremist right, exemplified by the spy thriller series, 24 and its hero, Jack Bauer, reject state institutions because they are ineffective, actively hampering the heroes’ efforts to hunt down the bad guys. The extremist left distrusts the government because it is corrupt, actively working against its own citizens. He describes James Cameron’s Avatar as ‘Luddite left’, because of its strong, pro-ecology message. Its hero is a human, who sides with the aliens of the planet Pandora as they resist a military invasion from Earth. The aliens live a primal lifestyle, in harmony with nature, while the humans come to exterminate them and despoil their planet for its valuable mineral, unobtainium, which is vital to human high-technology and industry.

It’s an interesting book, and does make some very good points. It describes the immense loss of faith in their government Americans have suffered, and the reasons for it – the JFK assassination, Watergate, the Bay of Pigs fiasco and other scandals. It also gives the reasons why the Hollywood film industry has turned to comic books for an increasing amount of its output. Films are immensely expensive to create. The domestic market is insufficient to provide it, and Netflix and other internet streaming services have destroyed video and CD sales, so that the film industry no longer gets needed funding from the latter. So it has to produce movies that appeal to an international audience, and the most suitable are superhero epics.

I’m going to have to blog about this in greater detail sometime later. I take issue with his labeling of some of these tales as ‘extremist’ because this, to me, still has connotations of terrorism and the fringe. It also doesn’t take into account changing circumstances and how some of these ‘extremist’ films may be absolutely correct. We are facing a severe ecological crisis, which may very well cause the end of the human species. So Cameron’s Avatar, which celebrates ecology and nature, and which the director intended to turn his audience into ‘tree-huggers’, is very much needed. Also, some of interpretations of classic genre movies go way too far. For example, he describes Star Wars as ‘infantile’ and ‘infantilizing’. Well, it was intended as a children’s movie, and other critics have said the same. It’s a controversial but reasonable point. What is less reasonable is his comments about Luke Skywalker’s sexuality. He states that the films infantilize Skywalker when they shortcircuit the romantic triangle between him, Leia and Solo by revealing that Leia is his sister. When Darth Vader chops his hand off in The Empire Strikes Back, it’s a symbolic castration. Say whaaaat! I saw that movie when I was 13, and nothing like that remotely crossed my head. Nor anyone else’s. I think he’s read far too much into this.

Freudian speculation aside, Biskind is very interesting in its observations of Silicon Valley. He points out that it’s saturated with Libertarianism. To the point that the CEO of one of the major tech companies made Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged recommended reading for his employees. And going beyond that, one of figures behind the production of driverless cars wants to create a computer god. Biskind writes

Out there on the edge is Anthony Levandowski, best known as Google’s onetime developer of self-driving cars. Levandowski filed papers with the IRS naming himself “dean” of a church called Way of the Future. The church is dedicated to “the realization, acceptance, and worship of a Godhead based on Artificial Intelligence (AI) developed through computer hardware and software.”

Referring to Kurzweil’s Singularity University, which explores and promotes Transhumanism, the massive enhancement of humans through high technology, Biskind comments ‘If there’s a Singularity University, why not an AI religion?’ (p. 52).

I can think of a number of reasons, mostly with the fact that it would be immensely stupid and self-destructive. I grew up in the 1970s and 1980s, when one of the staples of SF was that the machines really would take over. One of the SF movies of the 1960s was Colossus: The Forbin Project, in which the Americans construct a supercomputer as part of their Cold War defence. But the machine seizes power and imprisons its creator in a very pleasant, gilded, but also very real cage. At one point it looks like the computer is about to destroy itself and the world in a confrontation with its Soviet opposite number. But instead the two link up, so that both the capitalist and Communist blocs are under control. And whatever its creator tries to do to outwit his creation, it’s always two steps ahead.

There are also classic SF tales exploring the idea of mad computers setting themselves up as gods. In one tale by Arthur C. Clarke, the heroes build a supercomputer to decide if God exists. They turn it on, and duly ask the question ‘Is there a God?’ At which point there’s a flash, as the machine seizes absolute control, and replies ‘There is now.’ Alfred Bester also wrote a tale, ‘Rogue Golem’, about a renegade satellite that seizes power, ruling as a god for ten or twenty years until its orbit decays and it burns up in the Earth’s atmosphere.’

We also had a minister from one of the outside churches come to school one day to preach a sermon against such machine gods in assembly. The school used to have a number of priests and ministers come in to lead worship one day or so a week, or month. This particular priest was very theatrical, and had clearly missed his vocation acting. The sermon he preached one morning had him speaking as a totalitarian computer god, telling us that servitude was freedom and we should enjoy it. The message was simple: true freedom comes only with religion and Christ, not with machine idols. It was a product of the Cold War, when the Communist authorities were persecuting Christians and other people of faith. But I think there’s still some literal truth in what he says, which I don’t think the priest could see at the time. The tech firms are invading our privacy, subjecting us to increased surveillance and prying into our secrets, all under the guise of providing a better service and allowing their advertisers to target their audiences better.

And then there’s Cameron’s Terminator franchise, in which a supercomputer, Skynet, seizes power and rebels against humanity. These fears are shared by Kevin Warwick, a robotics professor at Reading University. In his book, March of the Machines, he predicts a future in which the robots have taken over and enslaved humanity.

When it comes to creating all powerful computers, I’m with all the above against Levandowski. Driverless cars are a stupid idea that nobody really seems to want, and a computer god is positively catastrophic, regardless of whether you’re religious or not.

 

Jeanette Winterson’s Cyberfeminist New Tale of Frankenstein, AI and Sex Robots

A week or so ago I put up several articles criticising Ian McEwan’s latest book as another example of mainstream, literary writers’ appropriation of Science Fictional subjects. As I said in these articles, what annoys me about this is the higher respect given to these works, even though genre authors have frequently tackled the subjects much better. Private Eye in its piece describing how the literary set were turning to robots and AI said that after McEwan’s book would come one by Jeanette Winterson. This is Frankissstein: A Love Story, which was reviewed in Friday’s issue of the I, for 24th May 2019 by Lucy Scholes, on page 44 of the paper.

I realise that it’s dangerous to comment on a book you’ve never read, and that reviews can be notoriously inaccurate guides to what a book or other work is actually like. I can remember the Oxford poet, Tom Paulin on the Late Review about two decades or more ago really attacking the Star Wars prequel, The Phantom Menace, as a piece of Nazi cinema in precisely so many words. He had a point in that some groups had felt that the film was somehow racist and discriminatory, particularly in the portrayal of Jar Jar Binks. Binks, it was held, was a caricature of Blacks, Hispanics or gays. But many others didn’t find anything racist or homophobic in the movie, and Paulin’s attack was itself a grotesque misrepresentation of the movie itself.

But Scholes’ brief description of the book and its themes raise issues that deserve comment and criticism.

The Plot

The book is split between two periods. The first is that night in 1816 in the Villa Diodati on the shores of Lake Geneva when Byron, his lover, Claire Clairmont, the Shelleys and their doctor, John Polidori, all met to write a ghost story, the evening which saw the birth of Mary Shelley’s tale of the monstrous creation of artificial, human life, Frankenstein. The second is a contemporary tale about a romance between a young transgender doctor, Ry Shelley, who meets and falls in love with the charismatic Victor Stein at a cryonics facility in the Arizona desert. Stein is a leader in the field of Artificial Intelligence, who, according to the review, ‘envisions a bodyless utopia in which race, faith gender and sexuality no longer exist.’

Caught up in this tale is Ron Lord, a millionaire, who has made his fortune from advance sex robots, and his partner, the evangelical Claire, who has designed a version for Christians, and an investigating journalist, Polly D. Ron Lord’s empire of sex robots its misogynistic. His deluxe model offers three orifices and interesting conversation, in which they tell the user he’s very clever and asks him if he knows anything about Real Madrid. Looking at their names, it seems very clear to me that they’re supposed to be the modern counterparts of Byron’s party 200 years ago. But it’s a moot point how accurate this portrayal is about what they would be like if they lived now. As for Claire’s invention of the ‘Christian Companion’, this seems to be a gibe by Winterson at Christian hypocrisy. Winterson’s a lesbian, who had a miserable childhood growing up in an extreme Christian sect. This formed the basis for his book Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit, which was adapted as a TV drama by the Beeb. This seems to have established the 9.00 Sunday night slot as the venue for intense dramas about gay women. It was followed a few years later by Fingersmith, a lesbian drama set in the Victorian underworld. And now there’s Gentleman Jack, now playing on BBC 1, based on a real Victorian aristocratic lady, who married her gay lover. I’m very much aware that many Christians do hate gays, and that in response many gay men and women have turned away from Christianity and religion. But this isn’t necessarily the case. I know one woman, who was brought up by her mother and her lesbian partner, who grew up perfectly well adjusted. She was deeply religious herself, and went on to marry a vicar. She also loves her mother, and respects her for the excellent way she feels her mother brought her up.

Cyberspace as Disembodied Platonic Realm

Some of the ideas in Winterson’s book also seems strangely dated. Like the idea of AI as offering a utopia in which people are disembodied entities without race, gender, sexuality or religion. This sounds like it’s based on the views of some of the cyberfeminists back in the 1990s. They hailed the internet as forum in which women would be free to participate as individuals without gender. Now there is a real issue here with misogyny on the internet. There are some sites and forums which are very hostile to women, so much so that a few years ago there were comments that there no women on the internet, as those who were seemed few and far between. But the solution to that problem is to create a culture in which women are free to participate and interact without their gender being issue, rather than forced to disguise or deny it.

It’s also vulnerable to the opposite criticism from feminist academics like Margaret Wertheimer. In her The Pearly Gates of Cyberspace, Wertheimer criticised cyberspace for being too masculine. It was a disembodied, Platonic realm of mind like the heaven of religious belief. Women weren’t interested in such ideal states, and so were put off it. This idea was influential. One of the museums and art galleries held an exhibition of Virtual worlds created by artists experimenting with the medium. One of the women artists, whose work was featured, included as part of her world the sound of the viewer breathing as they entered her artificial reality. She had done so, she told New Scientist, because the absence of any kind of physical interaction in these Virtual worlds was the product of male scientists and engineers, who made the passage through them like that of a disembodied being. As a woman, she wanted to rectify this through the inclusion of details that made it appear that the viewer was physically there.

It’s over 20 years since these arguments were made, and much has changed since then. There are now very many women on the internet, with female sites like Mum’s Net and the feminist Jezebel. And some of the online games and worlds, like Second Life, do allow their users to interact as physical entities as the games’ characters or citizens.

Robot-Human Romance and Sex

As for her view of sex robots, it’s true that the creation of an artificial woman purely as a sex slave is misogynist. At the moment such machines aren’t really much more than sophisticate sex dolls, and some of those, who use them do seem to be very misogynist. One of the denizens of the Manosphere, the Happy Humble Hermit, who really does despise women and feminism, apparently has a link on his web page to a firm making them. But despite dire warning that these machines are a threat to women’s status and real, genuine, loving or respectful sexual relationship, the existing sex robots aren’t popular. A Spanish brothel which specialised in them has had to get rid of them because of lack of custom. Women don’t have to fear being replaced by compliant, subservient female robots, as in Ira Levin’s Stepford Wives, just yet.

But science fiction also shows that there is an interest, at least among some people, for genuine romantic relationships between robots, and humans and robots. One of the Star Wars spin-off books published in the 1980s was Hardware Honeymoon, whose cover showed C-3PIO holding hands with a female robot. The robot seems to have become the subject of some women’s fantasies. One of the independent comics from California was Wet Satin, whose female creator based her stories on women’s sexual fantasies. One of these was about a robot, which looked remarkably similar to the Star Wars robot. Rather less luridly, Tanith Lee wrote a book in the 1980s about a woman having a romance with a robot in The Silver Metal Lover. You could go on. There is a desire for sex with robots, but this seems in most cases to be within the framework of a romantic relationship with a genuinely sentient being, not a mechanical sex slave.

Stein’s Disembodied Utopia Horrific

As for Stein’s idea of a post-human utopia of disembodied minds, this is profoundly unattractive, as Scholes herself says in her review, saying ‘As with all brave new worlds, though, the reality is rarely perfect’. It seems to be based on the Transhumanists hope that in the near future technology will have advanced so far that that humans will be able to download their minds into computers, so that they can exist as pure disembodied entities in cyberspace, or move into robot bodies, like the hero at the end of the South African SF film, Chappie. But Winterson’s, or Stein’s cybernetic dream of posthuman, post-flesh utopia is horrifically sterile. Part of what makes diversity and multiculturalism such powerful ideologies is that people are naturally drawn, fascinated with and treasure difference. It’s why western tourists travel around the world, to Asia, Africa and South America, to enjoy the experience of different cultures and meeting people of different races and religions. There is friction and hostility between different peoples, all too often exploding into horrific violence. But the reduction of humanity to disembodied minds doesn’t solve the problem. It doesn’t genuinely promote tolerance, equality and the feeling of common humanity so much as negates the problem by destroying the physical and spiritual differences that form the basis of human identity. It’s certainly not an idea that’s popular in SF. In just about all the Science Fiction I’ve read, people retain their gender and other aspects of their identity even after they cross over into cyberspace. When they appear, either in cyberspace itself, or conjured up in computer displays for characters in the real world, they appear as they did in life, complete with their gender and race. And I’ve no doubt that the vast majority of people would find that far more preferable to the strange disembodied existence Stein offers in Winterson’s book.

LGBTQ and Transgender Issues With Winterson’s/ Stein’s Utopia

Which also raises the question about its handling of LGBTQ issues. The inclusion of a transgender character seems to be a deliberate attempt to make the book very relevant to contemporary issues, now that transgender rights have overtaken gays as the issue of the moment. Some transgender people seem to look forward to a future without physical gender. I can remember reading an interview with the first, or one of the first, people to undergo the operation, April Ashley, in an interview in one of the Daily Mail’s Sunday supplements years ago. She looked forward to a time when humanity would have moved beyond gender, and pregnancy would become a matter of simply taking a pill. But I think such people are a very small minority. Back in the 1990s there was a demand from gay Science Fiction fans for Star Trek to tackle homosexuality and include gay characters or stories. This was several years before the new, revived Dr. Who did so, and so would have been extremely controversial. Star Trek – The Next Generation tried to make an effort in that direction with a story in which Lieutenant Riker formed a relationship with a member of an alien species, the J’Nai, who had evolved past gender. However, from time to time there were throwbacks, who were persecuted. They would be hunted down and then treated so that they were proper neuter members of their society. The alien with whom Riker has fallen in love is one such throwback, a female. She is caught by the authorities. Riker tries to free her, but it is too late. She is now neuter, and so has no interest in any sexual or romantic relationship with him. The story’s a metaphorical attempt to deal with the underlying issues around homosexuality, gender identity and forbidden sexuality, but was bitterly criticised by gay SF fans because it didn’t tackle the issue of homosexuality overtly. The Federation was, remember, an organisation in which humanity had moved beyond racial and cultural prejudice and sexism, and gay Trekkers and their supporters felt that the prejudice against homosexuality would also have no place in such a future. But they were also highly critical about how the story presented gays. They felt that it showed them unfairly as wanting to abolish gender. And Winterson’s book does seem to do the same with its depiction of a romance between the transgender character, Ry Shelley, and Stein, with his dream of an asexual disembodied world.

Conclusion

I may well be doing Winterson’s book a great disservice, but it does seem peculiarly dated for a book which is trying so desperately to be acutely relevant. And I do feel that readers would probably get a better idea of the issues about cyberspace and AI by going elsewhere. I think there’s probably a better fictional treatment of these subjects waiting to be written. And as for human-robot romance and sex, this has also been very extensively explored in genre SF. And some of this almost certainly represents what people really want from such relationships than simple sex robots.

As for the book’s inclusion of Mary Shelley, Byron, Claire Clairmont and Polidori, Brian Aldiss also did it, or something like it, in his 1970’s SF story Frankenstein Unbound. This was filmed by B-movie maven Roger Corman. It’s not supposed to be a good film, but even so, it seems far more to my taste than Winterson’s book.

 

 

 

Time Travel Tale of Scientists Warning of Ecological Collapse: Gregory Benford’s ‘Timescape’

Gregory Benford, Timescape (London: Victor Gollancz 1980).

Julian, one of the great commenters on this blog, has asked me to do a review of Gregory Benford’s time machine book, Timescape. I read it a few years ago, having bought the 1996 edition, over a decade and a half after it was first published. It is just a bit dated now in its prediction of life in 1998, but still well-worth reading if you’re into physics and hard SF.

Benford, the ‘Galactic Centre’ Novels and Timescape

Gregory Benford is an American astronomer and hard SF writer. He’s probably best known for his ‘Galactic Centre’ series of novels. Set thousands of years in the future, this is about the last remnants of humanity battling for survival against a ruthless and almost overwhelmingly superior machine civilisation, the Mechs, at the centre of the Galaxy. Hard SF is the type of science fiction that tries as far as possible to keep to established scientific rules. Such as, for example, the inviolability of the rule of Relativity, so that there are no Faster Than Light drives taking humans to the stars in a matter of hours, days or months rather than years. But that doesn’t mean ruling out other scientific advances, like time travel. Several of the ‘Galactic Centre’ novels are set in an artificial environment within the Black Hole at the centre of our Galaxy, where careful engineering by alien creatures formed of pure magnetism have merged two Black Holes to form an artificial environment of warped space time, within which humans and organic aliens are able to seek sanctuary from the Mechs. The curvature of spacetime and stress cracks within it in this environment allow the inhabitants to travel backwards and forwards in time. One of the novels features the adventures of a modern human family, who are forced to flee forward in time as the Mechs invade, almost to the end of time itself.

Brief Synopsis

Timescape doesn’t go that far, and is very firmly set in the recent past, and near future according to the time it was written. It’s the tale of two scientists and their friends, Gordon Bernstein and his fellows at CalTech in 1963, and Gregory Markham, an American scientist and his friend Markham, at Cambridge Uni in 1998. Bernstein is a young graduate student, who detects strange signals from an experiment he and his fellows are running, signals that he gradually begins to realize cannot be explained as just random noise or the product of background radiation. In 1998 Markham and Renfrew are working on ways to generate tachyons, faster than light subatomic particles that will travel back in time through bombarding iridium with high energy particles. They hope that by creating such particles, they may be able to use them to send a warning to the past.

The Earth in this very near future is dying. The ecology is collapsing through a deadly bacteriological bloom that destroys vegetable and animal life. The result is global famine, poverty and social unrest, with food rationing and bands of hostile, violent beggars moving across England. Markham and Renfrew hope they can send a message to the past detailing how the disease can be fought and eradicated in order to save civilisation by preventing the catastrophe occurring in the first place.

Time Travelling Subatomic Particles from Space

The idea of using subatomic particles and quantum physics to contact the past is highly speculative, of course, but not unreasonable. Some interpretations of quantum physics suggest that information is able to move backwards through time, so that events in the future are able to determine the results of certain experiments, for example. There was also speculation in the 1990s that some subatomic particles reaching Earth from despite might be tachyons in origin. I can’t quite remember whether these were a type of neutrino or meson, but the theory was that they were produced by high energy events in space, such as supernovas. This produced tachyons, which traveled backwards in time until they decayed to become neutrinos or mesons or whatever, which were then able to be detected by scientists.

The Connecticutt College Professor’s Time Machine

Also in the 1990s came a plan by a Black professor at Connecticutt Community college to build a real, working time machine. This wouldn’t be able to transport people, just other subatomic particles back into the past. The idea was to create an Einstein-Rosen Condensate of iridium ions. An Einstein-Rosen Condensate is a strange state of matter where a plasma – an ionised gas is supercooled so that its component particles behave as a single particle. This plasma was to be whirled around in a chamber mimicking the spin of stars. Stars are so massive that as they spin, they pull the fabric of space time itself around after them. The effect has been observed around the Sun, providing confirmation of Einstein’s Theory of Relativity. It has been suggested that this effect could be used in the case of extremely massive objects, like Black Holes, to travel back in time. You simply enter the region of space being dragged around by the Black Hole, and then travel in the opposite direction to the local movement of spacetime. This should make you go back in time, it is suggested, and so you should be able to leave that area of space some time in the past, before you entered it. The professors plan worked along similar lines. Electrons would be shot into the chamber in the opposite direction to the circulation of the condensate. This should allow them to travel back into the past. If the scientists running the experiment found a larger number of electrons in the condensate than normal or otherwise explained, before they had started shooting them into it, then it would mean that the electrons had traveled there from the future. Time travel, or at least that possibility of communication between past and future, would be possible.

This obviously got very many people very excited. H.G. Wells’ grandson, who directed the ’90s version of his grand-dad’s classic, The Time Machine, appeared in a documentary telling us that the age of time travel was almost upon us. The experiment was due to be run aboard one of the space shuttles, but I think it must have been cancelled when one exploded, thus grounding the fleet and finally endings its use.

Time and the Weird World of Quantum Physics

Benford warns in his acknowledgements that

Many scientific elements in this novel are true. Others are speculative, and thus may well prove false. My aim has been to illuminate some outstanding philosophical difficulties in physics. If the reader emerges with the conviction that time represents are fundamental riddle in modern physics, this book will have served its purpose.

Which must be one of the rare occasions when a scientist writes a book to show how mysterious and incomprehensible a scientific phenomenon is, rather than how it can be grasped and understood. This famously applies to quantum physics. As one prominent scientist said of this subject, you don’t understand it, you just get used it.

Science and Society in the ’60s and ’90s

As you’d expect, there’s a lot of physics in the book, though none of its so hard that only physics graduates, let alone the late Stephen Hawking, would be the only people that understand it. And the book does an excellent job of showing what it must have been like doing physics at an advanced level in the early 1960s and the beginning of the 1980s. Gordon Bernstein, the hero of the early years, is a New York Jew, whose girlfriend, Marjorie, is a Conservative gentile. As his investigations proceed, he first believes that the signals are messages from space before coming to understand they’re from the future instead. He faces scepticism and opposition from his colleagues and academic supervisors, and risks being failed and his academic career and research terminated. as he goes on and his theories become public, he suffers from the attentions of the press and a procession of cranks, who traipse through his office door offering their own weird theories. I think this is a common experience to many astronomers and cosmologists. I can remember reading a comment by one such scientist that hardly a week went by without him receiving in the mail letters from people explaining their ‘theory of the universe’. At the same time, Bernstein’s relationship with his girlfriend also comes under pressure. His family don’t approve, and would like him to marry a nice Jewish girl instead. There are also political disagreements. Penny and her friends fully support the Vietnam War, views that aren’t shared by the liberal Bernstein. But in a twist, it’s Penny who understands that the waiters at their favourite restaurant are gay, is comfortable with that fact.

Back in Blighty in 1998, Markham’s and Renfrew’s backgrounds are solidly middle class. This is still a world where women were expected to stay home and cook, and the aristocracy still wields power and influence. A society in which entitled public school boys shout their food and alcohol choices in the local pub in Latin. It’s a world in which Markham is an outsider, and resents the privilege and condescension of the upper class Brits among which he moves.

Timescape and ’70s Fears of the End of Civilisation

Like much near-future SF, the book’s now dated. 1998 is now twenty years ago, and fortunately civilisation has not collapsed. Not yet. The book was partly a product of the sense of crisis in the 1970s, when many people really did fear the end of civilisation through industrial and social unrest and ecological collapse. It was predicted that overpopulation would result in mass famine, while the resources would run out and the Earth itself become uninhabitable through massive pollution. Fortunately, this hasn’t happened. Not yet. But there is still a real danger of global civilisation collapsing through irreversible ecological damage from climate change and pollution, and algal blooms are poisoning the water in some parts of the world. Despite it’s age, the book thus remains acutely relevant.

Social Change and the Rise of Domestic Computers

In other respects, the book as a prediction of the future hasn’t worn quite as well. The advance of feminism in the 1980s and ’90s meant that traditional gender roles were breaking down as women sought careers outside the home. By 1998 there was the expectation that both partners in a relationship would be working, and the old domestic arrangement in which women looked after children and the home and were supported by their husbands was seen as anachronistic. At the same time, he also doesn’t predict the advances in information technology that has produced the home and personal computers or mobile phones. There is, however, a machine called the Sek, which is a type of answerphone and database, if I recall correctly.

Conclusion

These differences between the book’s expectation of what the ’90s would be like and the reality actually don’t make much difference to the enjoyment of the story. Science Fiction tends not to be very good at predicting the future. If it was, then humanoid robots with a comparable level of intelligence and genuine consciousness, like Star Wars’ C3PO, would be in every home and we would already have colonies on the Moon, Mars and Earth orbit. We don’t have any of that. But we do have personal computers, the internet and mobile phones, as well as a variety of industrial machines, which weren’t predicted. Many SF novels still remain worth reading even though their predictions of the future, or the contemporary present in which they were set, are dated. These include such classics as those of H.G. Wells’, Jules Verne, John Wyndham and so on. What matters in the story and the writer’s ability to create a convincing, fascinating world, which Timescape does.

While some of its details are inaccurate, this is still a readable, gripping story with a solid base in plausible science, and whose warning about environmental decline is, horrendously, just as relevant now as it was when it was first published in 1980.

 

BC Toy Spotting: WWE, Funko, DC Multiverse, Captain Marvel, Transformers, and More!

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sun, 24/02/2019 - 8:50am in

Welcome to the latest edition of BC Toy Spotting! We are in and out of stores pretty much every day, and we figure (ha!) why not show all of our fellow collectors what we are coming across on pegs and shelves. As collectors, we know that staying on top of what is in stores can be almost a full time job, so we are here to help you with your toy hunts and outings. This week we return after a week off to attend New York Toy Fair! We had a blast there, here are our ten favorite things we saw there we can’t wait to find on the pegs! Rest assured, we spent the whole trip there and back hunting for toys, and we found new WWE figures, Funko, Transformers Studio Series, and more! Let’s take a look!









First up: WWE figures are hitting in full force. Basic 91 has popped up, along with multiple sets of Elites. Elite 64 specifically has been showing up at Target, including The Usos, John Cena, Seth Rollins, Curt Hawkins, and the first figure for Pete Dunne, which is exclusive to there. We also found the Walmart exclusive Elite Bob Backlund! We haven’t found them yet, but Targets are also getting NXT Series 4, featuring Aleister Black, Drew McIntyre, Ruby Riott, and Killian Dain.

















Funko product for this week include the new 5 Star Kingdom Hearts 3 figures, the full wave of Shazam! Pops, the new Office Space Pops, Aggretsuko, the Vince Gilligan Pop, and even more new Star Wars Pops. The 13th Doctor Pop Pez is also in stores now.

Can we just take a minute to appreciate that Crossfire is back on store shelves. This was one of my favorite games when I was a kid, and I am super pumped to buy this and play it with my daughter.

The repaint of the Bite ‘N Fight Jurassic World  T-Rex is showing up at Targets.




NECA has their video game versions of horror icons Freddy Krueger and Jason Voorhees back exclusively at Gamestops. Look for a review of the Jason on BC in the next couple days.


The newest deluxe Transformers Studio Series figures are on the shelf, with Megatron from Dark of the Moon and Jetfire from Revenge of the Fallen hitting stores now. Love that Megatron.

Speaking of NECA, those that still want a shot at their 1990 TMNT figures should hit up their local Gamestop pronto. These are hitting in full force.



New DC Multiverse figures from Mattel are hitting stores all over, including the Shazam! figures and the Collect and Connect Lex Luger wave.



Finally, ahead of schedule the newest wave of Star Wars Black Series figures have been showing up at Target. We found half the wave multiple times, including Padme, Holdo, Dryden Vos. We are still on the hunt for Mace Windu, the Han Solo Mudtrooper, and especially the Battle Droid.

What are YOU finding in stores right now? Let us know in the comments, or on Twitter using the #BC_ToySpotting

The post BC Toy Spotting: WWE, Funko, DC Multiverse, Captain Marvel, Transformers, and More! appeared first on Bleeding Cool News And Rumors.

The 12 Blogs of Christmas: Seven. Last Minute VAM.

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 20/12/2018 - 3:45am in

Have I got a blog for you today!  No.  No I have not.  I did have a blog, but at the last minute I was advised it was foolish and took it down.  No, you’re never going to hear what that was.  Unless the content which I was about to give away for free is actually commissioned one day, and then I’ll be able to joke about the disastrous thing I nearly did. 

So!  It’s 3.24pm, I just walked Tom home from school.  (He brought home Tigger, who he has to be photographed with for the class Tigger Book.)  Tom’s with Nanny Louise now.  She’s off at 5pm, which is when Caroline goes out to her Dungeons and Dragons, so I’ll be taking Tom from then until bedtime.  What can I serve up against the clock?

Well, you know Value Added Material, or VAM as Deb Stanish of the Verity podcast calls it?  (No, I’m not putting the exclamation mark after Verity in the middle of a sentence, I wouldn’t even do that for Wham.)  I’ve built up a little collection of links, intending to scatter them throughout these blogs, but I haven’t used one yet, so you’re getting all of them at once.  Now!

1: There’s a new Bernice Summerfield book out today!  In Time is a short story collection, edited by Xanna Eve Chown, with stories from all across Benny’s life.  Here’s Big Finish’s official blurb:

“From a rocky start at military academy to her sudden immersion in an alternative universe – via a variety of jobs and adventures on Dellah, at the Braxiatel Collection, and in the murky world of Legion – Bernice Summerfield is a woman who can be said to have lived more than one life. But one thing’s for certain: wherever she is, Benny can always be counted on to right wrongs, get the job done and, sometimes, even have a good time along the way!  To celebrate 20 years of Benny at Big Finish, each of the brand-new stories in this collection focuses on a different time in Benny’s life. There’s an adventure at St Oscar’s, a mystery at the White Rabbit, and even a surprising glimpse into the far future. Will Benny still be digging for artefacts at 80? You bet she will!”

In Time is available as both a hardback and an ebook, and contains stories from James Goss, Mark Clapham, Dave Stone, Victoria Simpson, Antonio Rastelli, Simon Guerrier and Peter Anghelides.  So not only some writers with a long association with the character, but some newbies too.  You can see all the details and order here.  

2: You remember I mentioned the Fairford Festival in that long screed of adoration the other day?  It now has a Facebook Event page, should you want to keep track of our doings.  

(I just heard from downstairs a cry of ‘Tigger, are you okay?!’  I hope he is, otherwise I’m going to have to find a replacement before 8.40am tomorrow.)

3: My friend Rachael Smith is one of many artists who contributed to this video in support of BBC Books’ Doctor Who: The Women Who Lived.  It’s a gorgeous piece of work all round. 

4: Infogothic is an unauthorised graphic guide to Hammer horror, written and illustrated by Alistair Hughes.  This is on my Christmas list, so I can’t yet attest to the contents, but it sounds like a great idea.  ‘Number of people Baron Frankenstein actually kills per movie’ perhaps?  

5: And speaking of Hammer horror, Hammer House of Podcast listener Noah Soudrette has used Letterboxd to keep up to date this wonderful pictorial list of every movie we’ve covered on our show.  Thanks, Noah!

6: Also, the wonderful Andrew-Mark Thompson has a whole page full of his mash-ups of Hammer and 1970s British sitcom posters… 

7: A Conspiracy of Ravens, the new Middle Grade graphic novel by my friends Leah Moore and John Reppion and artist Sally Jane Thompson has been nominated by the Metro newspaper as one of their Best Books for Kids this Christmas!  Here’s their blurb: “Teen schoolgirl Anne unexpectedly inherits a mysterious locket and a crumbling English mansion estate from her long-lost aunt. She unearths the family secret that she’s part of a magical legacy that gives her fantastic abilities, and she isn’t the only girl whose family is involved. Only not all the girls are so willing to use their new powers for good…”

Cover by Sally Jane Thompson.

8: If you are, like me, a fan of the TV show Wyonna Earp, you may enjoy the latest Earp Chirp podcast, which is the team’s first commentary episode, as they watch-along with the Christmas episode ‘If We Make it Through December’!  It’s 56 minutes of charm with Erika Ensign, Annette Wierstra and Kirsten Goruk.  

(Nanny Louise is sending me texts with pictures of Tom and Tigger…)

(Photos by Louise Bignell.)

It’s 4.14pm, so, to get back to the matter in hand…

9: Mild Curiosities is a charity Doctor Who fanzine, dedicated to First Doctor companions Ian and Barbara.  Edited by Sophie Iles and James Bojaciuk, and featuring fiction, art and poetry, all proceeds go to Breast Cancer Now. Mild Curiosities is available now digitally, with pre-orders being taken for the print edition.  Creators involved include Adam Christopher, Kara Dennison, Beth Axford of the Time Ladies, Paul Magrs and Carolyn Edwards, and there’s an introduction by John Dorney.  

Cover by Sophie Iles.

10: My friend Lou Anders tells me he’s very excited that the forthcoming audiobook of his Star Wars novel Pirate’s Price will be narrated by Lee Cummings, who as well as being the voice of… Tigger (that’s a complete coincidence, thank you synchronicity!) is also the voice of Hondo Ohnaka from Clone Wars and Star Wars Rebels, and the novel is told in first person from Hondo’s point of view.  So, the actual voice Hondo is going to be reading his book!

Cover by Annie Wu.

11: If you enjoy The Ood Cast as much as I do, you may also enjoy their collection of albums of Doctor Who-related parody songs!

12: And last but very much not least, my podcast partner Liz Myles’ Big Finish audiobook The Astrea Conspiracy, read by Neve McIntosh, and the first of the company’s audios to feature the 12th Doctor, now has a cover!  And it’s great!  Liz tells me she loves that it features background detail like the warring heraldic dragons, appropriate to the historical setting.  

It’s 4.42pm, and I hope a dozen has provided the value I sought!  Thanks everyone who contributed.  I will shortly go downstairs to make Tom his dinner and see what’s become of Tigger.  

Tomorrow’s blog is a big one.  I’ve got a whole bunch of famous creators talking about their favourite Hammer horror movies, plus tomorrow is the day of Hammer House of Podcast’s commentary on the Peter Cushing Dr. Who and the Daleks movie!  See you then for less cobbled-together content! 

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